Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand were definitely the key highlights of this trip. But I would definitely recommend you to include a day in Tashkent and fit in a trip to the Aral Sea. In all, spending 10 to 12 days in the country is the time you will need to discover Uzbekistan.
Visit the breath-taking Registan in Samarkand. Explore the preserved central Asia’s holiest city of Bukhara and travel to the Silk Road ancient town of Khiva. Despite what other might say, a stop in the Soviet city Nukus is also recommended. Home to the worldwide known Stavisky museum, it is also a gateway to the fast-disappearing Aral Sea in Moynaq (210km) and located near an ancient Mizdakhan (13km) with impressive mausoleums dating from the 12th to the 14th centuries.
Which itinerary ?
The best is to start your intinaery from West to East, in other words from Nukus and the Aral Sea to Samarkand. This way you will have the opportunity to appreciate the evolution of the culture of the region. Architecturally Khiva represents the XI century, Bukhara the XII and Samarkand the XIII century. The latter being the largest and the most recent city.
fancy being OFF THE ToURSIT TRACK ?
While in Tashkent we were lucky to be hosted by close friends of us and they took us to popular places for the locals to go at the weekend and for holidays (Chimgon Lake and Charvak mountains). While in the capital, the best is to take the Hop and Off red bus tour for a complete visit. Tashkent has become a very trendy and safe place. Dont hesitate to go out for drinks or a meal in the city centre.
How to get there ?
Internal flights to Bukhara and Samarkand are available from Tashkent. The closest airport to Khiva is Urgench airport (one hour away). You also have the possibility to fly into Nukus. If you are more adventurous like us and on a budget, take the train from Aktau in Kazakhstan to Kungrad in Uzbekistan but this is a 30H journey. Get in touch if you need more information about the flights and transports as this is what we have done.
From Urgench, many buses as well as a shared taxis are available to travel to Nukus or Bukhara for less than a tenner per person. Just for you to now there are also train available but they can be quiet expensive and quickly full. Make sure you booked well in advance you train to get the best price and seats.
WHAT HAVE WE MISSED ?
We did not have the time to visit some of the nice places locals have recommended to us. BUT if you are making your way to Kyrgyzstan from Tashkent, stop at the Ferghana valley (Namangan, Andijan and Ferghana)
WHAT BUDGET ?
Uzbekistan is one of the best destinations we found for travellers on a budget and for backpackers. Local food is inexpensive, hotels, B&B or hostels and transports affordable. If you do have some basics in Russian, you will be able to negotiate even more. Indeed English is not very popular in this part of the world so take up some lessons. What we did was to do some basics course with Duolingo !
Expenses over 11 days of traveling ?
Average spent per day and per person. It includes excursions, accommodation, food and transportation.
TRANSPORT. Shared taxis and buses over 11 days. Not bad !
FOOD. We ate out at every meals. And mostly eat at local restaurants and markets.
PERSONAL BUY. Ok ! I am not a big spender and dont buy souvenirs !
Not to miss out !
Crossing the desert to get to the edges of the Aral sea with a 4×4 vehicle and an experienced driver (about 300-400 USD) is not to miss out while in Uzbekistan. This is a 2 days trip from Nukus and the car fees can be shared with other travelers. Many good providers are to be found on the internet. If you are on a budget or lack of time, get a shared taxi to Moynaq from Nukus. It should be available all day for 20USD (the entire car). We met some people at a café who also were looking for people to go with them. So do ask around, you will be surprised ! The driver will take you to what was once the Aral Sea’s bank and the beached ship wreckages. Make sure to go to the “artificial” lake where local fishermen go today. It is behind the regional history and Aral Sea museum (not worth the visit).
Get there before everbody goes !
- You must change all your local currency before heading back home. They are barely not accepted anywhere else than in Uzbekistan and you won’t be able to change them at the airport or outside the country at a good rate. Make sure to make a stop at the bank before leaving the country. The black market is also an option.
- Make sure you get your stamps at the places you stay to avoid having issue with customs. At the time of our travel 2018 you could not go with more than 3 days without such justification.
- Shared taxis and buses are the cheapest options for travelling. For a car of 4 :
- Nukus to the Aral Sea = 2 Euros per person
- Nukus to Khiva = 7 Euros per person
- Khiva to Bukhara = 20 Euros per person
- Samarkand to Tashkent = 11 Euros per person